The French government is set to impose more severe restrictions for some regions including the capital Paris from this weekend to curb the accelerating spread of COVID-19 infections, spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday following a cabinet meeting.
The announcement paves the way for new curbs in the greater Paris region, where intensive care wards are full and the hospital system is buckling with an incident rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Attal added that the new measures for Paris could include some form of confinement. Weekend lockdowns have already been imposed on top of a nationwide nightly curfew along parts of the Mediterranean Riviera and some areas of the north.
French President Emmanuel Macron had hoped an inoculation drive could stave off a new pandemic wave triggered by more contagious variants, and prevent France from having recourse to more measures that risk slowing the economy and cooping up citizens.
That approach is now being tested. The vaccine rollout has been slowed by an onerous European Union procurement process, supply difficulties, public skepticism and most recently the suspension of inoculations using AstraZeneca doses in more than a dozen EU states including France.
Macron on Wednesday defended the EU COVID-19 vaccine strategy, saying that within a few months Europe would be among the regions producing the most shots.
“We are living through the hardest weeks now. We know it,” Macron said after welcoming Poland’s PM at the Elysee Palace.
The new restrictions will be announced by the PM on Thursday. They will not include school closures, Attal said.
The head of public hospitals in Paris earlier warned that the virus was running amok in the capital and surrounding departments, an area that accounts for about a third of economic activity.
“The virus is not under control,” Martin Hirsch said.